Court of Appeal strikes down Work Programme Regulations

March 2013

The Court of Appeal has ruled that the Regulations under which some of the Government’s “Back to Work” schemes have been created are unlawful and must be quashed. See previous CPAG articles on Sanction Busting and Sanction Busting part 2.

In R (Reilly and Wilson) v Secretary of State for Work and Pensions [2013] EWCA Civ 66, the Court found that the Secretary of State, Iain Duncan Smith, acted beyond the powers given to him by Parliament by failing to provide any detail about the various schemes in the Regulations. The effect of the judgment is that all those people who were sanctioned by having their jobseeker’s allowance withdrawn for non-compliance with the Back to Work Schemes affected will be entitled to claim this back.

The Court also upheld the High Court’s decision that the letters warning claimants of potential sanctions failed to comply with the statutory requirement that claimants must be made aware of their obligations and of the circumstances in which, and the manner in which, sanctions will be applied.

The DWP has requested permission to appeal to the Supreme Court and has issued new regulations so that sanctions can be applied in future.

19 Feb 2013: CPAG writes to correct misleading advice to Job Centre staff

CPAG has seen a copy of a DWP circular sent to Job Centre Plus staff on implementing the Reilly and Wilson judgment. This inaccurately tells staff that claimants who have been sanctioned do not have a right of appeal while the case is being considered by the Supreme Court. This is not only misleading, but could lead to people losing their right to appeal against a sanction altogether.

CPAG’s solicitor has written to the DWP requesting that this advice to DWP staff be corrected: claimants are of course entitled to make appeals against sanction decisions on the basis of the Court’s decision. The deadline for appealing is one month, which can be extended by an additional 12 months where it is fair and just to do so. However, the Secretary of State does have powers to stay any appeal while the Supreme Court case is ongoing.

A copy of CPAG’s letter can be downloaded from the link on the right of the page.

5 March 2013: reply received from DWP

The DWP has responded to our letter.  They advise that the document which was issued on 12 Feb 2013 was an internal news article to DWP staff on the impact of the Court of Appeal judgment in Reilly and Wilson v DWP and that it is not guidance that would be relied upon by DWP staff when advising claimants of their appeal rights.

The letter goes on to confirm that the document issued on 12 Feb 2013 has now been overtaken by internal communications and formal guidance issued to DWP staff which correctly states that claimants can appeal their sanction decision following the Court of Appeal judgment but that their appeal may be delayed pending any application for leave to appeal to the Supreme Court that DWP may choose to make and, if successful, any subsequent appeal.